Friday, February 13, 2009

808s & Heartbreak

The blog of Suecae Sounds takes a break from the ordinary and would like to present a guest-review of the Kanye West album 808s & Heartbreak. Written by dear friend Danni Naeill.

... 808 & Heartbreak is a new offering by by the very popular rapper Kanye West. Thus you automatically expect the typical hip-hop with beats, samples, a lead rapper, the hired (female) singer...
No. No.

On his previous album Graduation, Kanye made a cover of Daft Punk's excellent Harder, better, faster, stronger, named Stronger, lending a lot of electro/techno from the French duo. Here is the result.

808 stands for the classic Roland TR-808 drum machine which he apparently loves. (we all do! / suecae) Heartbreak for the death of his mother and divorce from his fiancée. These two words truly reflect and represent the mood of the album: artificial drum beats, strings, the auto-tune voice instead of fluent rap, all blended with tragic lyrics of loneliness, loss, love, misery and heartbreak.

As an hip-hop album, it is very far from the typical hip-hop, so at first it renders me perplexed and slightly disappointed, though still intrigued enough to continue to listen. It seemed so bare, virtually empty and all too tragic. (Normally, I'm not very fond of sad and tragic stories and music, in stark contrast to those pathetic music journalists, who enjoy and find delight in other peoples' suffering!)

Then I tried again and instead I found a fragile, strong and heartbroken album, desperate in all its loneliness and desperate to find solid ground once more.

"Chased the good life all my life long / Look back on my life and my life all gone / Where did I go wrong"

I assert this is one of the top albums of 2008, with fantastic tracks like RoboCop, Paranoid, Welcome to Heartbreak and Street Lights.
It didn't prove itself fully until my grandmother died in early 2009. Then I truly understood all that sincere sorrow, thick sadness expressed in clinging words, those monotonous cry-like beats... Gone is the usually (over)confident, strong and outspoken Kanye, it is replaced with someone slightly more humble and fragile, ready to admit he isn't "all that".

Just like me, he's a mere mortal in a world of life and death.

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